There will be another new champion of the Admiral Austrian Basketball Bundesliga as WBC Raiffeisen Wels swept title holders Oberwart Gunners in the first round of the playoffs while the top three seeds all regained home court advantage after game one losses.
For the fifth straight year, the Austrian champion was unable to defend its crown as Gunners join Allianz Swans Gmunden in 2008, BSC Raiffeisen Fürstenfeld Panthers in 2009, Wels in 2010, and Swans again in ’11. The last repeat champion was Gmunden, who won three straight titles beginning in 2005, a run that ended Kapfenberg’s four-year run from 2001 to 2004.
Wels finished their 3-0 sweep of the fifth-seeded Gunners as Ali Farokhmanesh drained a three-pointer at the buzzer for an 83-80 win in Oberwart. Farokhmanesh, who scored a game-high 21 points including five three-pointers, knows a thing or two about big triples: It was his long ball that allowed number nine seed Northern Iowa to knock off overall number one seed Kansas in the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament.
“The main thing is that we stayed in the game for 40 minutes. We also have the right team and that helped us,” said WBC captain Davor Lamesic, whose team trailed 35-22 midway through the second quarter but led 42-40 at the break.
“Congratulations to Wels. They were clearly the better team and deserve to be in the semifinals,” said Gunners team president Thomas Linzer, whose team was led by 21 points from Joe Shaw II and 20 from Vernard Hollins.
Quentin Pryor added 20 points in the win for the fourth-seeded Wels, who will take on the winners of the Gmunden-BC Vienna series in the semifinals.
The regular-season champion Swans reclaimed home court advantage by knocking off eighth seeded Vienna with a 94-79 victory in the Austrian capital for a 2-1 series lead. Enis Murati and Matthias Mayer both scored 20 points for Gmunden while Dan Oppland added 18 points and Robert Arnold collected 15 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in the victory.
Swans fans are holding their collective breath, as Arnold went down injured with four minutes left in the game and could not return. Gmunden has been dealing with injuries as of late: Richard Poiger has not played since early March while Murati came back after missing the previous three games.
“It was a good game. But the injury to Arnold hurts us a lot,” said Swans GM Harald Stelzer, whose team can clinch a semifinal spot in Thursday’s game four in Vienna.
Vienna, who saw three players foul out, wasted a 33-point, seven-rebound, five-assist performance by Stjepan Stazic.
The no. 3 seed ECE Bulls Kapfenberg also regained home court advantage with a 2-1 lead after winning Game Three at Carefuel Güssing Knights, 92-90. The Bulls made six of eight free throws in the final 36 seconds and Güssing’s Aleksandar Djuric missed a potential game-tying shot with three seconds left.
Deteri Mayes scored 23 points while Jeremy Fears and Chadwick Gray both had 20 points for Kapfenberg.
“It was a very difficult game. Güssing played excellently offensively. We were lucky in the end. It will still be a very tight, exciting series,” said Bulls head coach Ante Perica ahead of game four on Thursday in Güssing.
Elvis Kadic came off the bench to score 21 points for the Knights while 20-year-old Thomas Klepeisz added 16 points and eight assists in the defeat.
“It was a great playoff fight with a bad result for us. We were close to beating Kapfenberg. But we want to drive to Kapfenberg one more time!” said Knights head coach Robert Langer, thinking about a game five, which would be on Sunday in Kapfenberg.
Another team hoping to finish things off on the road in game four on Thursday is second seeded Xion Dukes Klosterneuberg, who won at BSC Raiffeisen Fürstenfeld Panthers, 79-72, for a 2-1 lead. Jason Chappell led four players in double figures with 18 points while Ramiz Suljanovic had 16 points and 10 rebounds and 22-year-old Moritz Lanegger added nine points, nine rebounds and five assists for the Dukes.
The Panthers saw only six players score, including four of the five starters with at least 10 points. Anthony Shavies paced Fürstenfeld with an all-around effort of 25 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and five steals.
Germany-based David Hein is often (justifiably, we think) dubbed by BiE as “the hardest-working man in European sportswriting.” Aside from contributing to BallinEurope, FIBA’s official website and the Bundesliga Basketball League official website, he also writes for numerous German- and English-language outlets on sports from soccer and basketball on down. Check out far-ranging samples of his work at heinnews.com.